The 7 Phases of Fabrication // Anna Groppoli
As a student of architecture, most of the fabrication I have been involved in doesn’t go past a 1” = 1’ scale model. Though this has proven to be a valuable design tool, there are far more levels to a built project that can only be addressed during full scale fabrication. Through my experience with the Johnson County Sunset Pavilion I have discovered that there are 7 levels of fabrication involved before a project can be completed.
PHASE 1 & 2: FULL SCALE DRAWINGS AND MOCK-UPS
As a member of the design + make team, I have to make sure that each element of the project is constructed properly and to the correct dimensions. Even though the team is doing all fabrication ourselves, a full set of shop drawings was completed to ensure each piece is identical. Building full scale or half scale mockups of significant connections is the next step. These models ensure that, at full scale, bolt placement and plate size do not interfere with the overall integrity of the design. For example does a connection look bulky in comparison with its surrounding pieces? Or, Do all the materials create an appealing color pallet?
PHASE 3 : BUILDING CUSTOM JIGS
Once all the conflicts are resolved within the mockups, the next phase of building custom jigs can begin. Considering the location, experience level of the designers, and limited equipment, new methods had to be used to construct the individual parts of the pavilion. Plywood frames have been designed by the team to hold each piece required to construct each bay. The frames can withstand a considerable amount of weight and are cut to the exact degree of the glulam beams’ slant. The design of the frames ensures a safe, stable, and reliable working surface.
PHASE 4 & 5 : ADJUSTING TOOLS & FABRICATING INDIVIDUAL PARTS
Some alternation of tools is necessary to meet the needs of the designer. In this project, a magnetic drill had to be purchased in order to drill bolt holes in the steel beams. It wasn’t until the drill arrived that the team discovered the bit was too long for the drill. The bit was then cut down to the correct length in order to drill the bolt hole. Drilling bolt holes is just one process of fabricating each individual part of the pavilion before it can be assembled. Each piece of the design must be fully fabricated before putting it all together. All the steel was first welded, drilled and galvanized. Next will be to alter, drill, and paint the glulam beams. Each individual piece, be it steel, wood, or concrete, must be fabricated individually before any of it can fit together.
PHASE 6 & 7 : COMPLETE FULL SCALE FABRICATION & INSTALLATION ON SITE
Once each individual piece is fabricated separately, the bays can be assembled and then transported to the final site where they will be lifted and bolted into place. All full scale fabrication is assembled offsite and then transported. Shop fabrication ensures the team has a controlled environment to work in and limits the amount of time needed on site. The less time spent on site saves time and money needed to rent a storage trailer and equipment.
Though these seven phases of fabrication are specific to this pavilion project, they may very well be evident in other projects that are constructed off site. Each project requires its own specific set of tools and methods to be completed on time. Whether it means purchasing jigs and frames, using machine over man power, or purchasing pieces from a manufacturer rather than constructing it themselves, this list of steps seems fairly consistent with any design team fabricating a project.
Written by Anna Groppoli